Ethiopia Seeks UN Security Council Members Help Resume GERD Tripartite Talk

April 20, 2021

Ethiopia attempting to return Egypt and Sudan to African Union led negotiation, requested UN Security Council members to urge the countries to return to negotiation   


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia on Monday announced that it has submitted a position paper to the United Nations Security Council regarding the stalled talk over the Mega Dam project. 

It has also called for members of the UN Security Council to urge Egypt and Sudan to return to African Union led tripartite talk under  to reach an agreement on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

The last round of AU led talk, which happened early this month in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), ended without agreement as Egypt and Sudan pursued a path to take the negotiation outside the African Union platform. The two countries proposed to change the observers’ role of the United States, the European Union and the  United Nations  in a way to match that of the role of African Union. Ethiopia rejected the proposal saying African Union led process needs to be respected –  a manifestation of its adherence to the principle of “African solution to African problems.” 

Demeke Mekonen’s letter, addressed to the president of UNSC, highlighted that  “AU-led process has enjoyed the full support of the UN Security Council on the basis of the principles of complementarity and in the spirit of finding African solutions to African problems.” 

Ethiopia’s engagement with the United Nations Security Council came at a time when the Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is  touring some African countries with the aim to “highlight Egypt’s position regarding the latest developments in the GERD negotiations.” as Arab News reported on Monday.  

Ethiopia accused Egypt and Sudan over lack of good faith in the negotiation. In the letter to the UN Security Council, Ethiopia said that the two countries are not ready to make necessary concessions for a win-win outcome.  

Egypt has been claiming a “historical right” over the Nile. Ethiopia has rejected Egypt’s monopolistic claim over the Nile.  As a country contributing over 85 percent of the water volume to the river, Ethiopia has determination for equitable and fair use of the Nile water while committing itself that it will not affect the water shares of the lower riparian countries. 

The amount of time needed to fill the GERD has been another controversial issue in the negotiation. Egypt wants to impose over two decades for Ethiopia to fill the dam. Ethiopia wants to fill the dam within seven years after the completion of the construction. 

In July 2020, Ethiopia already completed the first phase of filling, exploiting the rainy seasons. It also poised to undertake the second phase of filing in during the coming rainy seasons of July and August which Sudan and Egypt initially saw as a “National Security Threat” issue. But Egypt seems to have changed its position. Last week, Foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said Ethiopia’s second filling will not impact his country. 

Preparations for the second filling of the Dam is finalized. Forest clearing for water reservoir which will retain 13. 9 billion cubic meters of water is in the works. Two bottom outlets of the dam are ready and already spilling water. 

If members of the UN Security Council managed to convince Sudan and Egypt to return to the African Union led negotiation, there could still be a possibility for the three countries to reach a win-win solution. Russia made its position clear when Sergey Lavrov visited Cairo on April 12. He said the three countries have representations in African Union, and it is the appropriate platform to resolve their differences. 

Experts in the field point out that the Ethiopian Dam will not have a significant impact on lower riparian countries. 

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